Nicole Zuraitis has a heart full of soul and a voice full of sunshine. She's got a mix of things on her mind with her fourth album, everyday themes and weighty matters alike, and yet they ultimately come out sounding exuberant in her hands. The fundamental optimism is one key asset of All Wandering Hearts, even if her variety of jazzy coffee-shop balladry is no less eloquent in the spots when things get more somber.
The too-spirited-for-AOR "Make It Flood" starts off with subtly buoyant optimism to balance out its depiction of life's trials, and the set's original pieces keep that bright spirit as they touch on themes of change, loss, family and modern-day burnout. It's dressed up with an instrumental backing somewhere between contemporary jazz and the livelier side of adult-contemporary singer-songwriter pop. Husband Dan Pugach keeps the rhythms light yet propulsive while Alex Busby Smith's sprightly electric bass stays in step; the small cast of other players is likewise just as subtly energetic as needed.
While a recurrent string backing gives a dash of grandeur to back up several pieces, usually staying on the right side of bombastic, Zuraitis keeps any vocal theatrics on the judicious side. Her delivery maintains an intimate tone that remains relatable throughout; here she's an actress as much as a singer, conveying emotional shades without quite emoting. The positivity comes out most in the sporadic covers here, from a rubato "What a Wonderful World," rich in its wistful simplicity, to the reinvented '90s alt-rock staple that soars to the finish on clever new jazzy chordings and sweeping guitar. If "Sugar Spun Girl" crosses the line into cutesy or "Rock Bottom" leans trite (though genuine), those moments are temporary enough not to derail things. Hearts still gives all kinds of weary hearts a refreshing lift.
Make It Flood; The Way Home; I Would Die 4 U; Overdrive Mind; What a Wonderful World; Gold; Sugar
Spun Girl; Rock Bottom; Lullabye; Send Me on My Way.
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